Wow....I am everlastingly grateful to the people on this board. Since I moved away from New York, I've been searching for how to make a true NY pizza (never made pizza before in my life, but I figured I'd better learn how otherwise I'd go nuts)
So with the help of all you people, by reading your recipes and suggestions (and checking out Randy's pizza, especially), I think I've hit on a formula that works pretty well for genuine NY pizza!
-- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
-- 2-and-a-half cups bread flour
-- one-half cup of "00" flour
-- slightly more than 2 cups of warm water
-- 2 tsp yeast
-- 2 tsp fine sea salt (not the thick chunks; it should look like regular salt)
-- 2 Tbsp mild olive oil (as you all pointed out to me, NOT extra-virgin)
-- just short of 1/4 cup of RAW (not "normal") sugar (thanks Randy for that tip!)
-- approx 9 tsp of wheat gluten (about one-and-a-half tsp per cup of flour). You should be able to get gluten at any decent supermarket cheaply--I got mine at Safeway.
So here's how I made my masterpiece:
1. Put all the flour, wheat gluten, and sea salt into a big bowl and mix it all together briefly.
2. Pour the two cups of warm water into a small bowl and then add sugar. Stir until dissolved; then add yeast. Dissolve the yeast, and then wait about 5 minutes, or until water mixture becomes frothy.
3. Pour olive oil into the big bowl. Then add the water mixture.
4. Mix with wooden spoon until entire mixture congeals together enough to remove with your hands (a tip--remove any rings you have on your fingers before you do this!). Then take it out of the big bowl and shape it into a rough ball in your hands.
5. Knead by hand for approx 10 minutes on a surface well-dusted with flour, until dough is smooth and relatively non-sticky (it can be slightly sticky).
6. Place dough on cutting board and divide into two halves.
7. Spray some oil onto each half, then place each half into a separate small plastic grocery bag, knot the bags closed, and refrigerate overnight. Every few hours, if you can, pull the bags out of the fridge (without opening them up) and squeeze the air out of the dough. Theoretically, it should taste even better after two days of refrigeration (although mine tasted delicious after only one day).
8. When ready to make pizza, preheat the oven to 485 degrees for about 45 minutes. You MUST have a pizza stone or tiles on the bottom rack of your oven; a pan won't do for New York pizza.
9. While the oven is preheating, take one bag out of the fridge and let it warm up a bit towards room temperature. Then take the dough out of the bag and put it on a dusted pizza peel.
10. Punch down the dough into a rough disk. Then shape and stretch the dough by hand (you guys all know how to do that properly, right? Either by tossing or draping it over both fists?) The dough should be stretched as much as possible, but no more than approximately 16"-18" in diameter; it should be stretched thin enough that if it were much thinner, it would break. Do NOT use a rolling pin unless it is absolutely necessary. Once the dough is stretched out on the peel, poke it in a couple of places with a fork to dock it a bit.
11. Here's where the procedure changes according to your oven. I've gotten the best results by putting the sauce on first (without any cheese), baking it for about 2-3 minutes, then taking it out, putting the cheese on, and placing it back in the oven. You might want to just put the sauce and cheese and toppings all on at once. Either way, cook the pizza until the bottom of the dough is browned. The cheese should NOT be browned at all. It should be melted and bubbling, but not brown. Also, keep a close eye on the crust in the early stages of the baking; make sure that if any bubbles start to form in the crust, poke them with a fork to prevent the dough from becoming one huge bubble. Finally, remember that the sauce and cheese should be in a decent proportion (see the photo of the slice from Ben's Pizza, earlier in this thread, for a sense of the correct proportions).
12. This recipe in full yields two 16" authentic New York pizzas
Use that second bag of dough the next day (I enjoyed the first one so much that I immediately made a second one the next day!); or if you're going to go awhile between pizzas, put the second bag in the freezer until needed.
What seems to have made the difference for me was the addition of the raw sugar, the wheat gluten, and the flour mixture. The wheat gluten in particular is crucial, unless you have special high-gluten flour to work with (I don't). The mixing of the different types of flour is a bit unusual, but it seemed to work (I only tried it because it was all I had on hand--I ran out of bread flour while trying it out the first time, and put in some 00 flour on a whim!) The new things made the dough tastier, and also gave it the proper rising and consistency (lots of air holes inside, but not "fluffy" like soft white bread. "Spongy" would be a better way to describe it). Again, the final dough should be approx 1/4" to 1/2" in height once cooked. I shoot for 1/4" as a target.
Once again, thanks everybody for your input...it's made a huge difference and I'm finally happy with my NY pizza!! If anyone tries this recipe, please let me know how it goes......